35. 10.30pm. Bottom deck, in the single seat directly behind the driver.
A middle-aged white man boarded the bus. He was wearing a dressing gown and slippers. A plastic hospital bracelet was visible on his left wrist. Over his shoulder he was carrying a very large, fake, silver Christmas tree.
‘Driver, I need to get to Kings College Hospital, I gotta get back before they realise I’m gone. I walked out earlier, but I’ve gotta get back now. It’s just two stops, two stops.’ He spoke forcefully, in an American accent, and planted his feet firmly on the floor. After a few moments it became clear he didn’t intend to pay for his journey so the driver waved him past. I guess you pick your battles.
As he squeezed past my seat, the man suddenly made eye contact. Leaning in, he glared at me and growled, Clint-like, ‘The thing about you, China, is that you think you’re number one but you’re not.’
I felt duty-bound to reply, ‘I’m not Chinese.’
‘The thing about you, China, is that all your buying land in Africa isn’t gonna change anything. You think you can just buy your way to the top? America is still number one in this world, we are still NUMBER ONE. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?’
With a final glare, the man hefted his Christmas tree to the back of the bus, where he proceeded to give a lecture on human anatomy, specifically the area around the oesophagus, to whomever would listen.
As promised, he got off after two stops.